There were so many mums who understood this post, when I published it last week. Just when I get to the point where I feel alone, like some kind of emotional oddity… people speak, and they prove me wrong.
It’s common, it seems, if you have experienced grief or trauma at any level– if you suffer PTSD, if you’re grieving someone who you loved dearly, someone who an integral part of your day to day life, a flowing force in your existence… you disconnect.
If you are one of the people lucky enough to have children, you notice it sharply, fiercely, especially when you view it in contrast to what you felt in your Before. (Anyone in this category, I think we all have a Before… a time when the world was lighter and easier, a time when we asked ourselves “How on earth do they do it?” instead of feeling the dull thud of knowledge “I know exactly how they do it.. they have no other choice.”). Because children are tiny mirrors, and they reflect yourself back at you in your purest form… no social niceties to soften the sting of unhappiness.
Just as I said last time– I know. I remember how I would have felt in my Before, reading this… slightly amazed and saddened, wanting to disbelieve it. Not quite sure how it could happen, but being very sure it would never happen to me, no matter what the situation… how could the love I feel for my children change in any way, no matter the proceeding circumstances?
It does change… it just… does. And it’s not something you see immediately, it’s not something you feel happening. With intense and sudden grief and trauma, there is no time to feel anything… you’re numb for months; and when you finally start to tingle with the pins and needles of real life again you have been molded, slightly; yourself but warped, and those around you might be able to see the difference… but you can’t.
So I know how some of you might feel, reading this. And I know I’m different with my children now, than what I was in the Before. I get that. And I understand that intense love that you feel, the emotion that causes the slight bewilderment you’re feeling as you read this. But only because I remember it… not because I feel it now.
I love my children. I would, quite literally, die for them. I remember telling my nan once, in the Before, that the difference between my love for my children and my husband could defined in a nanosecond. If either of them– kids, or Man– happened to be in sudden danger of the dramatic kind, and throwing myself in the path of an oncoming vehicle would save them; then there was only a split instance of difference in my love for them.
With my husband… I would have stopped, just for a moment, and thought about it. I would have done it anyway, thrown myself into the path of danger for him, no question.. but pure instinct would have made me stop for a moment, would have made the action I was about to take a choice.
If it were my children, there would be no half hesitation, no time for pause. My instinct would not stop me to ask me questions– it would throw me into the traffic without pause, without deliberation… in a heartbeat. There would be no choice in the matter (nor would I want one.).
And I still love my children that way. I still, instinctively, protect them and watch for them. I check on them before I go to bed, I know their favorite foods and bad habits ans shoe sizes.
But I rarely miss them. I would rather spend my time alone, or with my friends. I no longer hold off on doing the grocery shopping until I’m with my kids, because they make it more fun, I rush to do it without them because it’s easier.
The tiny things that were once minor irritations and paled in comparison to the pure enjoyment of being in the company of my offspring are now exasperating, annoying to the point where I am a snappy, cranky person. I try not to be… sometimes it’s difficult.
Don’t underestimate me here, or any other parent who happens to feel them same. My children are still very much loved. I tell them how wonderful they are, how I’m proud of them. They are fed and read to and clothed and warm. All their needs– including the need for a kiss and a cuddle when they desire– are met.
But I guess you could say– and forgive me for cliched corniness, but it really is solid truth– my heart isn’t it.
I explain all this to my psychologist and, as I do when I talk to her, I take a step back and realize that maybe I need to let up– my God, I am doing OK here. Some days I’m even doing well. I tell her all of this, I explain this disconnection, and she assures me that it’s normal, that it’s OK, that it’s understandable. And, of course, she makes me see that’s it’s not only children I feel this way with… it’s most things. Every emotional connection I had– and, if I’m honest, experiencing most emotions at all, except those that are truly intense enough to take my breath away– are pale imitations of what they used to be, a sepia toned picture that was once bursting with color.
It’s the enjoyment that’s missing, my shrink tells me. The enjoyment– the joy. I am living, and sometimes– more and more– I am content; but I rarely find joy in anything…. sadly, my children included.
As I’ve mentioned here before- I’m aware that my children are aware of this, and it will effect them, even if it is somewhere (the id?) that is so primal they may never be able to access it or know exactly why they themselves are over emotional, or co-dependent, or cold, or unable to commit. And that sucks, that’s fucked, and I know it, I own it, every day…but that’s life. And life’s a bitch.
The best I can do is keep working at it, keep melting the ice that sits around that intense joy and love that I know is still there, somewhere. And have some faith that one day I’ll be able to reach in and touch that source of it, replenish my enjoyment in the people around me whenever I desire. And I can have hope that when my children are older– so much older, old enough to know how heartbreaking being an adult can be– that they’ll know that I tried. I fought. I’m still trying.
It occurred to me today, as I was burying my four year old’s legs in sand on the beach, that I lived here in Paradise for six months, and we were at the beach almost every day. And it never once occurred to me to build a sandcastle with my kids…. and if it did, and I acted on it, then I have no memory of it.
Today we built castles, we examined rock pools, we wrote our names in the sand… we had fun. Together. Just the three of us.
I must be getting better, slowly. There’s proof of that, real, physical proof, in the castles we left behind on the beach.
I love my children with everything I’ve got…. They are a balm to the pain. They are my soul, my cells, my existence… my world revolves around them.
And that’s the reason I’m still going, still trying to melt that obscuring cloudy ice inside. Because I love t
hem. Because the mother they had is gone, and she’s not coming back.
But they have this one, still. And she’s doing the best she can.